Samsung v. Apple – The Tablet Wars

In the wake of Steve Jobs’ death, Apple investors and fans could use a little good news.  Well, they recently received some, in the form of two rulings against Samsung. On October 18, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a federal court in Australia had granted Apple an injunction against Samsung, preventing Samsung from selling its tablet device “Galaxy Tab 10.1″ in Australia.  Apple alleged that Samsung infringed on “two of its patents relating to touch screens and the gestures that control them.”

As the article points out, this suit says a lot about the two companies, especially about Apple’s perception of the Samsung device as a true competitor to its iPad.  It also puts Samsung in a difficult position with the holiday shopping season — a season that retailers would like us all to believe starts on Labor Day this year.  For its part, Samsung’s statement in the aftermath of the ruling makes reference to the fact that it has filed a cross claim against Apple, alleging a violation of Samsung’s wireless technology patents.

Here in the United States, Samsung is also running into IP trouble with its Galaxy tab.  As reported by Reuters, after the ruling in Australia came out, ”Apple then filed a request in July to bar some Samsung products from U.S. sale, including the Galaxy S 4G smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.”  A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Galaxy infringes on Apple’s patents but, interestingly, also stated that Apple is having troubles establishing the validity of those patents.

We would have loved to be at this hearing.  Reuters’ article gives this little tidbit about that proceeding, which was undoubtedly not good news for Samsung’s attorney:

At one point during the hearing, she held one black glass tablet in each hand above her head, and asked Sullivan [Samsung's lawyer] if she could identify which company produced which.

“Not at this distance your honor,” said Sullivan, who stood at a podium roughly ten feet away.

“Can any of Samsung’s lawyers tell me which one is Samsung and which one is Apple?” Koh asked.  A moment later, one of the lawyers supplied the right answer.

Ouch.  Not a good few days for Samsung.

Tech Companies To Litigate Unpaid Royalties

Two kings of the tech world will reportedly duke it out over allegedly unpaid royalties.  In the suit, filed in federal court in New York, Microsoft alleges that it entered into a patent-sharing agreement in 2011 by which Samsung was to pay Microsoft a royalty for every Android phone it sells.  This was purportedly part of an effort to “work together to develop and market Windows Phone, Microsoft’s mobile software.” Microsoft alleges that Samsung failed to make a royalty payment on time and refused to pay interest on the late payment.  The original “heavily redacted complaint” alleges that Samsung has attempted to use Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business as an excuse for not complying with the patent-sharing agreement. Microsoft has since filed an amended complaint, and Samsung has responded with a motion to compel arbitration. The case is Microsoft Corp. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 14-cv-06039, (D.N.Y. 2014).

Austin Powers and the $1 billion Apple Verdict

When I saw the above referenced headline on CNN’s Tech website, I had two, nearly simultaneous, reactions.  First, I had to re-read the headline.  A jury in Caifornia just awarded Apple a BILLION dollars?  With a “b”?  Yes, kids, that’s “billion.”  With a “b.”  My next, less professional, reaction was to cite a string of my favorite quotes from the movie Austin Powers.  Oh, that Dr. Evil! (We’ll wait for you here while you go watch the movie clip for yourself.).

We have been tracking the Apple-Samsung worldwide feud for months now; last November, we blogged about Apple’s victory in Australia in the so-called “tablet wars” – a federal court in Australia granted Apple an injunction against Samsung, preventing Samsung from selling its tablet device “Galaxy Tab 10.1″ in Australia.  Apple alleged that Samsung infringed on “two of its patents relating to touch screens and the gestures that control them.”  Samsung faced similar troubles here in the United States.

This recent verdict was awarded in California federal court over the companies’ respective smartphones – Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy.  The jury determined that Samsung was guilty of “willful” violations of Apple’s patents.  It started out even bigger, but was reduced by $2.5 million when some inconsistencies surfaced in the jury’s award.  Apple had put an even bigger number “up on the board,” so to speak – $2.7 billion.  I am sure that the lawyer writing that closing had to say that figure, out loud, many times to keep it from absolutely catching in his or her throat.  Could you imagine asking a jury for that amount?  With a straight face?  But, I digress.

It is not surpristing that this award represents the largest patent infringement verdict in history.  Still to be decided is the issue of injunctions, and whether Samsung will be able to continue to sell its phone in the United States.  We’ll be watching for that decision, for sure.  In the meantime, we leave you with the quote that partially inspired this post:

Number Two: Don’t you think we should ask for *more* than a million dollars? A million dollars isn’t exactly a lot of money these days. Virtucon alone makes over 9 billion dollars a year!

Dr. Evil: Really? That’s a lot of money.

[pause]

Dr. Evil: Okay then, we hold the world ransom for… One… Hundred… BILLION DOLLARS!

Friday Links

After last week’s comic book case law, here’s some Star Wars jurisprudence:

  • “Darth Vader is a huge, malevolent figure dressed entirely in flowing black robes, including a black cape which reaches to the floor. His face is masked by a grotesque breath screen with sharp angles and menacing protrusions. He wears a black helmet of flared design and is armed both with a light saber and his command of The Force, a cosmic power tapped by the Jedi Knights, a vanishing breed of crusaders for good from whose ranks Darth Vader has defected. Darth Vader has significant confrontations in the movie with his former teacher, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, who is now the Jedi Knight mentor of the young and heroic Luke Skywalker, and with Luke himself; the first battle is fought with light sabers and the second with spaceships.” Ideal Toy Corp. v. Kenner Prods. Div. of General Mills Fun Group, Inc., 443 F.Supp. 291, 297-98 (D.C.N.Y. 1977) (quotations and citations omitted).

  • “Citizens’ political speech would be unacceptably regulated if they had to fear that their efforts in support of a political candidate, even for judicial office, would remove that candidate from his or her official duties if elected. The portrayal of some candidates as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad,’ even in the graphic, pointed analogy of Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader, is merely the rough and tumble of the democratic process. Regrettably the rough and tumble includes judicial elections.” Rogers v. Bradley, 909 S.W.2d 872, 882 (Tex. 1995). (Enoch, Justice, responding to declaration of recusal) (citations omitted).
  • “You can’t have a mock Star Wars without a mock Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, which in turn means a mock Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. You can’t have a mock Batman commercial without a mock Batman, which means someone emulating the mannerisms of Adam West or Michael Keaton.” White v. Samsung Electronics Am., Inc., 989 F.2d 1512, 1518 (9th Cir. 1993) (Kozinski, J., dissenting from the order rejecting the suggestion for rehearing en banc).
  • “One example is the nurturing of the gifted Luke Skywalker by Obi-Wan (‘Ben’) Kenobi in Star Wars, of which the Court takes judicial notice.” Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. v. Marvel Enters., Inc., 155 F.Supp.2d 1, 41 and n.71 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (noting also that”Star Wars is one of the most well-known and widely viewed science fiction films.”).